So many great things happening in the allergy community, so little time. Seriously, these 3 not-to-be-missed events are all happening within the next couple of months.
1. Walk for Andrea (Sep 22)
2. Tough Nutter (Oct 6)
3. Food-Free Trunk or Treat (Oct 19)
What I love about events like these is that they help bring the community together, while raising awareness (and funds) towards a cause that is near and dear to all of our hearts: food allergy research and — possibly — a cure.
Scroll down for more details, and to hear from a few of the allergy mamas who are working hard behind the scenes to help bring these events to life.
September 22: Walk for Andrea
What? The 4th annual walk to raise funds for allergy research via Sick Kids Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Program. In memory of Andrea Mariano.
When? Sunday September 22, 2019 @ 10:30am-12:30pm
Where? Milne Park in Markham, Ontario
Why? See what co-founder Jyoti Parmar has to say:
It was over 13 years ago when we were first confronted with a food allergy diagnosis. My then 2-year-old son reacted to the residue of peanut butter on a knife I used to make him a jam sandwich. The allergist told us there was no treatment. We were told to avoid the allergen, carry EpiPens, read labels and be constantly vigilant. We understood that complete avoidance of the allergen was the only way to prevent a reaction.
By 2010 our life of avoidance extended to many more allergens – dairy, egg, soy, peanuts and tree nuts – but avoiding the allergens also meant avoiding events in which food was involved… and that was almost everything. In spite of all the precautions we had put in place, accidental ingestion did occur and I was living in constant fear of a reaction. We craved a cure.
We attended the Walk to Axe Anaphylaxis in 2010 and 2011 and were inspired by the research it was funding. We looked forward to supporting their efforts again but there were no more walks after 2011. My husband and I talked about starting a fundraising walk ourselves but we did not get beyond the talking — until September 2015 when we heard about the death of a first year Queen’s University student, Andrea Mariano. She died due to an anaphylactic reaction to a drink she ordered from Booster Juice on campus. She was 18 years old, and allergic to peanuts and dairy.
When I heard of Andrea’s death, I was devastated. Andrea grew up in Thornhill about 15 minutes from where my family lives. I did not know her or her family but her allergies are similar to those of my children and her death solidified my fears. It also jolted us to action. We reached out to the Mariano family and they too wished to channel their immense grief and heartbreaking loss into something big, so that Andrea would never be forgotten.
In February 2016, we began working with the Mariano family and formed a planning committee. Together, we organized and held the first annual Walk for Andrea in the fall of 2016. It was a beautiful day.
We walked together to remember Andrea and all those whose lives had been cut short by anaphylaxis. We walked together to raise food allergy awareness and to show our children they are not alone in their struggle. We walked to find a cure. Join us!
How? Register here.
October 6: Tough Nutter
What? Toronto’s first ever charity obstacle course for kids. In support of the Sick Kids Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Program.
When? October 6 @ 9:00am-2:00pm
Where? Camp Robin Hood in Markham, Ontario
Why? See what committee member, Karen Leung, has to say
My son Bobby was born 3.5 weeks early. 95% of babies born at this point are completely fine, but Bobby required an 11-day stay in NICU for premature lungs. While in NICU, the nurses said his skin was particularly sensitive to the band-aid adhesives. He was also feisty as heck, and required a “do not disturb unless medically necessary” sign on his isolette.
I exclusively breastfed, and even after I took him home, I would notice that he had very sensitive and irritable skin. His cheeks were always rosy, and he constantly had rashes on his body. It wasn’t until the 6-month mark, when he broke out into hives after the introduction of egg yolk, that I realized what was going on with him. Then it was a reaction to dairy. Then peanut…
His skin was rashy because of low levels of allergens in my breast milk. Today, Bobby is allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and seeds. It’s a lot to manage, but he lives a full and fun life.
The thing is, even though we have his day-to-day life under control, I knew I needed to do more. I joined a committee to raise money for the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis program at Sick Kids Hospital. Through this program, research is being done to create more accurate food allergy diagnostic tests, and innovative ways to prevent anaphylaxis in food-allergic people. I strongly believe Sick Kids will change the future for Bobby, and children with food allergies.
Please join the first ever Tough Nutter in October. It’ll be a fun day, and a great way to meet other families who deal with food allergies!
How? Get tickets here.
October 19: Food-Free Trunk or Treat
What? Toronto’s second annual food-free Trunk or Treat (a.k.a. the most inclusive Halloween event ever). To raise allergy awareness and funds towards allergy research via the Top 10 Challenge/CAAIF.
When? Saturday, October 19 @ 3:00-4:30pm
Where? Stock Yards Village in Toronto, Ontario
Why? See what Top 10 Challenge founder, Kathleen O’Hagan, has to say:
When my son was diagnosed with multiple allergies — including one outside of the “top 10” — when he was still just a baby, one of the things that devastated me the most was the thought of all the wonderful things he’d miss out on.
Everyday things like playdates and eating out, favourite festivities like Halloween and Easter, social events like potlucks, BBQs — and MomsTO — they all felt out of reach.
Out of reach, but not impossible. Sure, the ‘simple things’ don’t come easy anymore. But I soon learned that doesn’t mean we can’t participate in our own safe versions and create our own lovely memories.
So I began to seek out allergy-friendly restaurants and AllergyBites was born. Then I started #AllergyMom Meetups so that mamas like me could hang out with moms who get it, while our kids play nearby.
And a 100% food-free Halloween event? That’s so that kids of all ages and allergies can safely take part in the festivities.
It’s heartbreaking (and scary!) to have to rummage through our kids’ goodies to get rid of all that unsafe loot. And here’s the thing: Even brands that market themselves as “school safe” or “Halloween safe” are not necessary safe for my son (thanks to his sunflower allergy) and countless other allergy kiddos (thanks to other non “top” allergies like coconut, pea proten, chickpeas and more!).
But the Food-Free Trunk or Treat lets allergy kids be kids — they get to dress up and go “trunk-or-treating” without fear. How awesome is that?!
The other great thing about this now annual Halloween event is that it’s a super fun kick-off for an allergy awareness initiative and fundraiser started just last year. It’s called the Top 10 Challenge, and its goal is to spread awareness, empathy and compassion, while raising funds towards an allergy research grant via CAAIF.
All of this to build a more inclusive world for our children with food allergies. We might not be there yet, but I truly believe we’re closer and closer every year. So I hope you’ll join the Halloween fun… and the fight for a better world for our kids.
How? Register here.
Friendly. Supportive. Encouraging.
Want to join a community of like-minded food allergy folk? Join the AllergyBites Community on Facebook.